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What Are the Differences Between State and Federal Sex Crimes?

Most sex crime prosecutions in Texas take place in state courts, usually in the state courthouse nearest to where the crime took place. But some sex crimes violate both state and federal law. In those situations, the case can be tried in either federal or state court, and a person can even face two prosecutions. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that being tried for the same sexual act in both court systems is not double jeopardy.

Sex crimes can become federal issues when they involve alleged activity in more than one state, the use of the internet, or when the alleged misconduct occurs on U.S. government property. Federal prosecutors often bring charges only after a thorough investigation by the FBI or another federal investigatory body has found strong evidence. In these cases, the conviction rate is very high and mandatory minimum sentences apply.

Accordingly, anyone charged with a federal sex crime should retain a defense lawyer who has significant federal court experience. The rules and procedures in federal court are much different than in state court, and your attorney must know those differences.

Sex crimes that are often tried in federal court are mostly found in Title 18 of the U.S. Code and cover alleged misconduct such as:

  • Aggravated sexual abuse
  • Child sexual exploitation
  • Child pornography
  • Computer sex crimes
  • Human trafficking for prostitution
  • Sex trafficking of minors
  • Kidnapping to commit a sex offense
  • Sex crimes resulting in death
  • Sexual abuse of a child

One of the most important differences between the Texas court system and the federal court system is that the federal system has mandatory minimum sentences for many sex crimes. For example, sex trafficking of a minor carries a mandatory minimum of 10 or 15 years depending on the age of the victim. Aggravated sexual abuse of a child means 30 years behind bars. Additionally, once your prison term ends, sex offender registration in the federal system is usually required, and even if it isn’t, you’ll likely need to register as a sex offender in Texas.

Being accused of a sex crime, whether in federal or state court, is extremely serious. But your lawyer may be able to put forth a strong defense. At The Law Offices of Kevin Collins in San Antonio, I help people fight against sex crime allegations in federal court and Texas state court. I have many years of experience in both venues. Additionally, I know how to handle cases that attract media attention, which often sensationalizes these charges and harms your reputation. Call 210-598-8629 or contact us online for a consultation if you are accused of a federal or state sex crime.

COVID-19 Notice
We are here to help and support you through these generally challenging times with your specific legal issues. You will be able to reach me or my staff through our main telephone numbers, and of course by email: [email protected] Phone conferences for existing and potential clients are available, as is the video conference feature through the Zoom app. Zoom may present some privacy challenges so phone conferences are preferred. Please take care of your health by following the measures recommended by the CDC, and by state and local authorities.
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